Special Guests 2017

Alexandra LugaroAlexandra Lúgaro was born on June 10, 1981, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She graduated from the High School of the University of Puerto Rico at the age of 15 and was admitted to its Río Piedras Campus where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a triple concentration in Finance, Marketing, and Economics and subsequently her Juris Doctor.

In 2014, she obtained her Masters of Laws (LL.M.) from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, where she is currently finishing her Doctorate in Financial and Taxation Law.

During the last decade, she has served as Executive Director of corporations America Aponte and Associates and The Metropolitan New School of America, where she has drafted competitive proposals for federal and state funds with which to implement innovative science-based educational initiatives in Puerto Rico. For the last 15 years, she has successfully directed dozens of educational projects and millionaire budgets, improving student academic achievement in over 500 schools in Puerto Rico. As a criminal lawyer, she has also provided pro bono legal representation for the last ten years.

Faced with the notable deterioration in the social, economic and educational frameworks of the island, Alexandra Lúgaro ran for governor of Puerto Rico as an independent candidate in 2016, becoming the third largest political force in Puerto Rican history.

In 2016, Lúgaro was invited to give the lecture “Independent Candidacies, Social Media and the Rescue of Democracy” at TedXBerklee Valencia where she presented her independent candidacy as a model for the evolution of politics around the world.

Since 2017, Lúgaro has become one of the spoke persons for el “Junte Soberanista”, an alliance of multiple parties, organizations and individuals, dedicated to educating on the economic and political merits of the sovereignty option for Puerto Rico.

Recently, she was invited by the current Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, to become part of the “Frente for Puerto Rico”, a group conformed by political, religious, community and industry leaders with the purpose of addressing as a united front in Washington DC subjects related to health, economic development and federal tax reform.

Convinced of the importance of small and medium local businesses to Puerto Rico’s economy, Lúgaro is currently offering workshops and mentoring to startup entrepreneurs across the island.

Named “The Social Media Queen” during her political campaign, Lúgaro remains active in multiple social media platforms analyzing public interest issues and collaborating with multiple causes.

Felipe LucianoMr. Felipe Luciano is one of the most dynamic Latino public figures in the United States of the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries. His eloquence, vision, and passion for issues of social justice are extraordinary and reminiscent of the oratory talent of civil rights leaders of the 1960s.

This two-time Emmy recipient, former WNBC-TV New York news anchor, and lecturer defied adversity early in life. Luciano was born in New York City and raised in poverty in East Harlem and Brooklyn by a single Puerto Rican mother. In 1964, at the age of sixteen, Luciano was convicted of attempted manslaughter after a gang fight and sentenced to five years in prison, of which he served two. Upon his release, the Harlem antipoverty agency, HARYOU-ACT, recognized his academic potential and creative talent and urged the young Luciano to apply to college. With the support of the college readiness program, SEEK, he enrolled at the City University of New York-Queens College campus, where he immediately became involved in the student activism of the 1960s. Luciano soon became known within activist circles for his membership in the Last Poets, the group of black power era artists mentored by Amiri Baraka, whose politically charged live-music and spoken word poetry performances in the 1960s prefigured the emergence of hip-hop and rap in the 1970s and 1980s. As a member of the Last Poets, Luciano led provocative political workshops in Harlem that attracted progressive intellectuals and activists, including leading figures of the black power movement like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown.

As a result of his local popularity as a Harlem artist and progressive activist, Luciano was approached by a group of Puerto Rican youth in 1968 who wanted to launch a radical organization oriented around fighting against Puerto Rican poverty and racial oppression. Eventually, that cohort of young students launched the New York chapter of the Young Lords Organization (YLO), the Puerto Rican counterpart to the Black Panther Party. Luciano was elected Chairman of the New York group.

Under Luciano’s leadership, the YLO changed its name to the Young Lords Party (YLP) and became one of the most influential Puerto Rican organizations of the 1960s. Luciano established himself in the YLP by articulating the grievances and aspirations of poor Puerto Ricans in an eloquently accessible manner and by identifying issues that resonated with community residents.

Luciano describes his politics during the 1960s as revolutionary nationalism evolving toward a global view of revolution. Luciano attributes his revolutionary politics of the 1960s to his childhood immersion in the family-oriented networks and migrant community culture of Puerto Ricans, and to his grueling and punishing prison experience, which helped to crystallize his understanding of the contradictions between American poverty and repression, and the nation’s democratic promise. His 1960s political activism and his membership in the YLP, in particular, were crucial to his political maturation and to the constructive channeling of his energies after prison—a period which he identifies as his “age of disillusionment.” Luciano also attributes his success in navigating his early life’s challenges and his successes in the YLP to his strong Afro-Latino identity. He credits his doting grandmother, who had a profoundly proud sense of her negritude, for impressing upon him a positive view of his Afro-Latino roots.

In the fall of 1971, Luciano left the YLP after a series of political disagreements over the YLP’s new directions in politics, strategy, and tactics. Of his experience in the YLP, Luciano recalls that the Young Lords worked hard, worked collectively, and engaged in revolutionary campaigns that had a lasting effect on Puerto Ricans and New York City.

Following his departure from the YLP, Luciano again immersed himself in the city’s black arts movement. From 1972 to 1975, he founded and produced the acclaimed radio show Latin Roots, the first English-language program in the United States to feature Latin culture and music and to develop an ethnically and racially diverse audience. Latin Roots aired on WRVR, a New York-based radio station affiliated with Riverside Church and known for playing Jazz and the progressive sermons from the church. During Luciano’s tenure, Latin Roots received an Ace Award for best radio show. Later, Luciano joined renowned program director, Frankie Crocker, at WBLS. Later he was hired by WLIB, the sister station of Percy Sutton’s Inner City Broadcasting Company and produced Conversations with Felipe Luciano, which explored the commonalities between black and Latino communities through dialogue with his listening audience and a cross-section of representatives from politics, grassroots organizations, and cultural, financial, and religious institutions.

In the mid-1970s, Luciano’s career evolved from radio to television when he joined the news team at NBC’s New York City affiliate station as a general reporter and later, as a weekend anchor, becoming the first Puerto Rican news anchor of a major media network station in the United States. While at WNBC–New York, Luciano won an Emmy Award for Best Reporting and Story for a Live Special Report (a concept which he created) on prison life at Riker’s Island. For his reporting at Riker’s, he also won a Silurian Award. In the 1980s, Luciano anchored Channel 2’s The People for WCBS, a weekly local series featuring current events and interviews with cultural and political movers and shakers where he was awarded a second Emmy Award. He was also the original correspondent and host of Good Day New York and co-hosted with Ed Koch on a popular local political affairs show called Street Talk.

Luciano’s media success is attributed to his first-rate status as a communicator, his sensibility for cultural trends, and his keen analysis of the most important developments in Latino, African American, and mainstream politics. He recently earned a master’s degree from Union Theological Seminary and just finished the year as the Director of Communications for the City of Newark.

Felipe Luciano lecturers at colleges, universities, unions, and community organizations nationwide. He consults on issues pertaining to emerging markets, the Latino and African American communities, youth and gang violence, coalition building, diversity, and multiculturalism.

Charles A. Rodríguez is a New York City-born Puerto Rican attorney and politician affiliated with the New Progressive Party (NPP), the pro-statehood party in Puerto Rico. He served as the eleventh President of the Senate of Puerto Rico from 1997 until 2000. He is currently the State Chair of the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico and a shadow congressman from Puerto Rico as a member of the Puerto Rico Equality Commission.

Early life

Charles A. Rodríguez, also known as Charlie Rodríguez, was born in the Bronx, New York City, on August 26, 1954. Rodríguez came to Puerto Rico in 1961 when his parents decided to return to the Island of their birth. He attended public schools in his adopted town of Carolina. He enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico but later transferred to Cornell University in New York, where he graduated in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Government and History. He also attended his first year of law at Cornell University Law School, from where he transferred to the University of Puerto Rico Law School, achieving his law degree in 1983.

Political Career

In 1980 Rodríguez was elected Representative At-Large and reelected in 1984. While a member of the territorial House of Representatives, he assumed in 1985 the leadership of the New Progressive Party in the city of Carolina and in 1988 unsuccessfully sought the office of Mayor.

After four years in private legal practice, Rodriguez returned to the Puerto Rico legislature in the elections of 1992 as a Senator At-Large and was unanimously elected by his colleagues as Senate Majority Leader, in charge of steering the New Progressive Party platform and Governor Pedro Rosselló’s legislative agenda. Rodriguez was re-elected Senator At-Large in 1996. When the Senate convened early in 1997, Rodriguez was elected by his colleagues the eleventh President of the Senate of Puerto Rico. As Senate President, Rodriguez continued pursuing the party’s legislative agenda during Rosselló’s second and last term as governor. He also advanced legislative initiatives on the environment, economic development, crime and social welfare.

Mr. Rodriguez is active nationally within the Democratic Party and has been a delegate to every Democratic National Convention since 1980. He was Vice-Chairman of the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico from 1983-1985. On February 7, 2017, Rodriguez was elected State Chair of the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico and as such currently holds a seat on the Democratic National Committee (DNC). He also remains active in the League of Urban Latin American Citizens (LULAC). He chairs LULAC’s National Special Committee on Puerto Rico Civil Rights and Status.

The plebiscites on political status held in Puerto Rico on 2012 and 2017, where statehood obtained 61% and 97% of the total vote, respectively, inspired the approval of an “Act for Equality and Congressional Representation of the United States Citizens of Puerto Rico”, creating an Equality Commission constituted by the first delegation of two U.S. Senators and five U.S. Representatives. In consequence, Rodriguez was appointed by the Governor of Puerto Rico and confirmed by both Houses of the Legislative Assembly, as a shadow congressman and member of the Puerto Rico Equality Commission. The purpose of the Equality Commission is to promote in the U.S. Congress and the Federal Government, the electoral mandate ensuing from the plebiscites rejecting the current territorial-colonial status and seeking admission of Puerto Rico as a state into the Union on an equal footing with the citizens of all other states.

Legal Career

Rodriguez was admitted to the Puerto Rico bar in 1983 and to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in 1989.

In 1989 he started his solo practice in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, after serving full-time in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives. Following eight years in the local Senate, Rodriguez was Of-Counsel at the law firm Woods & Woods from 2001 to 2004 and Martinez Odell & Calabria law firm from 2005 to 2008. In 2009 he founded the law firm National Legal Advisors, LLP, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he presently practices law.

Dr. Neftalí García-Martínez

Cuando surgen preguntas respecto al ambiente y los recursos naturales, lo más probable es que se llame al Dr. Neftalí García para que responda a éstas. Con un doctorado en química orgánica de la Universidad del estado de Ohio, es Director de Servicios Científicos y Técnicos, Inc. desde principios de 1988. Fue coordinador cientíico de una organización ambiental llamada “Misión Industrial de Puerto Rico” por muchos años en las décadas del 70 y 80.

Asuntos tales como la guerra de Vietnam, el movimiento negro contra el racismo y los asesinatos del Presidente J.F. Kennedy y de Martin Luther King causaron un despertamiento en la consciencia del Doctor García en términos de la necesidad de reformas sociales. Su experiencia de trabajo con respecto a los recursos naturales no renovables y el estudio de la economía política le dieron una perspectiva sobre la importancia de la descolonización ideológica en la lucha por la libertad de los puertoriqueños. Años después, leyendo a Fanon, confirmó algunos aspectos de sus teorías políticas.

El trabajo del Doctor García consiste en enseñar a las comunidades a ampliar su entendimiento al grado de poder resolver sus propios problemas. Este es un paso muy importante hacia el logro de una conciencia de la necesidad de la independencia tanto política como económica. El acumula información necesaria para la solución de problemas, da charlas, sostiene conferencias de prensa sobre problemas actuales y trabaja como consultor en casos relacionados con la contaminación ambiental y los recursos naturales. Invita a la participación, fomentando la autoconfianza y el poder de las organizaciones de base, en un esfuerzo por romper con los efectos psicológicos de la colonización. Ha testificado ante el Comité de Descolonización de las Naciones Unidas, respecto a la relación entre el colonialismo y los problemas ambientales.

El doctor García lucha por evitar que Puerto Rico pierda la belleza de sus verdes valles y montañas, como resultado de la contaminición generada por las industrias controladas por capitales originados principalmente en Estados Unidos. Del mismo modo luchó por muchos años contra el daño que amenazó a la Isla, por el intento de compañías de Estados Unidos por explotar los yacimientos de cobre, oro, plata, cobalto, níquel y otros minerales. Actualmente él no ve la inmediata amenaza de esta explotación en el futuro cercano.

El doctor García estuvo envuelto en la oposición a las prácticas de las compañías Israelíes productoras de vegetales en Santa Isabel, al sur de Puerto. El excesivo uso de insecticidas regados desde avionetas en estas fincas afectó la salud de los residentes, al igual que la vegetación y la fauna. Financiadas con un préstamo de $36 milliones del Gobierno de Puerto Rico, estas compañías Israelíes no pagaron sus préstamos. Se preocuparon más por vender sus productos y proteger sus intereses, que de proveer alimentos para cubrir las necesidades de los puertorriqueños. Nosotros entramos a un almacén en el que un cargamento de cebollas era depositado en camiones para ser exportadas y obviamente no era para el consumo del país. Mientras tanto, Puerto Rico continuúa importando un 80% de sus productos alimenticios.

Las sesenta o más plantas de productos farmaceúticos al norte de Puerto Rico y las plantas petroquímicas en el área sur no están siendo controladas cuidadosamente en cuanto a la disposición de sus desechos peligrosos. En la práctica, la exención de la aplicación de las leyes ambientales es uno de los incentivos provistos a las industrias norteamericanas para que se instalen en la Isla. En el 1983, por ejemplo, se hallaron 18 pozos contaminados, afectando decenas de miles de personas. Tricloroetileno, tetraclosoetileno, tetracloruro de carbono, mercurio y otros desperdicios químicos peligrosos, han sido encontrados en estos pozos de agua potable.

Informes científicos indican que al aire en Puerto Rico se lanza siete veces más bióxido de azufre por milla cuadrada que en cualquiera de los estados de la nación americana. “Puerto Rico, como todas las otras islas oceánicas, es un frágil ecosistema que no puede llevar sobre sí el peso de modelos industriales hechos a escala coninental,” nos advierte él.

En un árticulo publicado en Pensamiento Crítico en diciembre del 1986, el doctor García trazó una bien definida conexión entre el status colonial de Puerto Rico, el uso y el estado de sus recursos naturales y el ambiante. Con la inversión de los Estados Unidos en la industria, la banca y en especulaciones calculadas en unos $30 billones, es natural que los asuntos ambientales tengan que acomodarse a estos intereses. La Agencia de Protección Ambiental, la Administración de Salud y Seguridad Ocupacional y el catastro Geológico de Estados Unidos al igual que el Gobierno de Puerto Rico son burocracias estatales que protegen dichos intereses corporativos, por oposición a la economía, la salud y el bienestar de los puertorriqueños.

El ha señalado que los experimentos con el “Agente Naranja” (Agent Orange) y otros herbicidas en los bosques de Puerto Rico afectan no solamente la flora y la fauna sino también la salud misma de las personas que viven en estas áreas. Por otro lado, la Marina de Guerra de los Estados Unidos ha destruido lagunas, actividad agrícola y la vida económica y social general de la Isla de Vieques.

Plantas para procesar los desperdicios de las industrias químicas y farmaceúticas nunca fueron construidas por éstas, por lo que lanzan desperdicios a las plantas de aguas usadas que procesan desperdicios domésticos además de los vertederos municipales. Las compañías transnacionales han contaminado las aguas superficiales, subterráneas y los suelos. Por ejemplo, una urbanización, Ciudad Cristiana, fue construida sin consideración alguna sobre la presencia allí de lindano, plomo, zinc, mercurio y otras substancias tóxicas en los sedimentos y el agua. Mercurio fue hallado en la sangre, la orina y el pelo de los residentes de esa urbanización, lo que ha afectado gravemente su salud.

La ideología colonial es enseñada en las escuelas y a través de los medios noticiosos, haciéndose hincapié en que Puerto Rico posee escasos recursos naturales, que los puertorriqueños tienen poca inventiva y muy limitada habilidad científica y tecnológica. En fin, lo que se implica es que los puertorriqueños son genéticamente inferiores a los estadounidenses blancos. Con esta perspectiva es muy fácil sacar grandes beneficios económicos y mantener sojuzgados a los puertorriqueños.

En su testimonio ante el Comité de Descolonización de la ONU el Dr. García informó un desempleo o subempleo de más de 30% junto a la multiplicación de los problemas sociales, como resultado de la situación colonial. Aquellos puertorriqueños que se organizan en apoyo a la independencia, son el blanco de represión económica y política; muchos son llamados terroristas. Una de las muchas acciones represivas fue el allanamiento en el 1985 de las oficinas de Pensamiento Critico, revista de cuya junta editiorial es miembro el Dr. García. Miembros de su junta editorial fueron arrestados en otro intento por eliminar una voz libre en la discusión y análsis de los asuntos políticos, económicos y sociales en Puerto Rico. “El FBI no tenía una clara idea de lo que estaba ocurriendo en el movimiento pro-independencia, por lo tanto, se llevaron cuanto pudieron de la revista y de un gran número de residencias, a fin de obtener información adicional,” declaró García. “Pero el error de ellos está en no haber reconocido que la reacción iba a servir sólo para fomentar la lucha política y alentar a seguir adelante a aquellos que ellos han querido aniquilar. Los arrestos y las invasiones de residencias privadas sirvieron para probarle al pueblo puertorriqueño que pese a lo que se diga, el colonialismo carece de base legal y que el imperialismo, a menos que se le oblique, no respeta ley alguna.”

José Báez, defense attorney. Few trial lawyers have ascended to national prominence as quickly and spectacularly as Jose Baez. Known for his passion, hard work, and brilliant courtroom strategies, Jose Baez has brought a new hard-hitting style of trial work to the courtroom.

Jose A. Baez is an experienced trial attorney who has represented clients in the full range of Criminal and Civil cases. While he is best known for “shocking the world” in what Time Magazine dubbed the “Social Media Trial of the Century” in the Casey Anthony murder trial for which he won an acquittal, Mr. Baez has had continued success in and out of the courtroom. In 2011, he flew to Aruba and helped free millionaire businessman Gary Giordano from prison in the disappearance of Robyn Gardner.

He was named” Lawyer of the Year for 2011″ by Lawyers USA magazine and also named as one of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” for both 2011 and 2012 by the National Trial Lawyers Association.